Thank you all for providing thoughtful responses for Reflection #8. Several common themes emerged across most grantee programs, and it’s clear that many of you are experiencing similar sets of challenges and strengths as you look ahead to years 4, 5 and beyond.

The most commonly reported strengths and assets supporting sustainability are detailed below, along with the most commonly reported challenges to project sustainability.

Strengths / Assets

  • Enthusiastic commitment to the program (and to arts programming more generally) from teachers, school administration and staff, parents, and the surrounding community. Several grantees mentioned that this creates an environment where project ownership can eventually be shifted and broadened, thereby supporting project sustainability. See the posts from Sisters Folk Festival / Sisters School District, PCM Woodlawn and CAM Sunset for examples of this strength at work.
  • High demand for arts programming among students.
  • New evidence of program success. Many grantees report that they are ready to use newly compiled data to attract potential donors and to make a convincing case for the program’s importance to school administration and their community.
  • Teachers have an enhanced ability to administer arts programming (due to the training which took place during years 1-3). Check out the posts from 3 Rivers IRVAC, RACC Hillsboro, and Lane Arts Oklea to read about how each organization is successfully incorporating this element into their programming.
  • Access to high-quality artist instructors.
  • Lower anticipated costs associated with years 4-5. Many grantees report that they have purchased the equipment necessary for their program (many grantees made these investments in years 1-2). This lowers the cost of projects for years 4-5 (and perhaps beyond).

Challenges

  • Securing stable, consistent, and adequate funding for programs.
  • Building teachers’ capacity to teach and/or facilitate art programming. It was consistently reported that many teachers find art intimidating or outside of their expertise, and are uncomfortable teaching art.
  • High teacher turnover (this was reported by most grantees).
  • Recruiting and retaining high-quality instructors (this was most frequently reported by rural communities).
  • Changing school culture to deepen appreciation for arts education. Many grantees expressed a strong desire that art can become both a regular course offering at their school and integrated into the general curriculum. Many grantees found difficulty in promoting this within their school and/or district.
  • Relying on a single champion for the program. Several grantees reported reliance on one administrator or instructor to sustain their project. This creates an environment wherein the program’s relationship with the school is precarious, and contingent on one individual (or small group).
  • Ongoing difficulty with data collection (particularly quantitative data).

In some cases, things identified by some grantees as a strength, were identified by others as a challenge (usually the lack of that thing). For instance, some grantees expressed that having a strong commitment to their project from school administration supported their potential for sustainability. Other grantees reported that not having buy-in from school administration was a particular challenge, undermining their project’s sustainability.

This indicates that while individual projects may be in different stages, the same elements are considered important by most grantees. Many of these reflect the Studio to School principles we’ve been building together! This also means that grantees who are currently experiencing certain challenges can look to others’ successes for potential solutions or approaches. Be sure to read one another’s posts and connect with one another with questions.